School bells are ringing and parents are rejoicing! Kids… not so much. It can be challenging to end summer vacation and jump back into a classroom environment, and while many parents are welcoming the school doors opening again, there are some concerns you should keep in mind when sending your children back to school, particularly on how they are going to get there.
Within the span of one generation, the percentage of children walking or biking to school has dropped from 50% to in 1969 to just 13% in 2009. In 2009, American families drove approximately 30 billion miles and made 6.5 billion vehicle trips to take their children to and from schools, accounting for 10-14 percent of traffic on the road during the morning commute.
This decrease in kids getting to school on their own is in part due to parents being concerned about their children’s safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,432 pedestrians have been killed since 2011. Vehicles are responsible for 1 in 5 deaths among children between the ages of 1 and 14 and pedestrian injuries account for a quarter of them. Accidents can happen while in driveways, parking lots, or other areas children cross on their way to school.
Whether your kids walk, take the bus, ride a bicycle or if you drive them to school, being safe on the road is a must.
Children are more vulnerable to pedestrian injuries because of their smaller size, limited experience with traffic rules and because they have a harder time judging distances and speeds. According to the CDC, one in five traffic deaths among children ages 14 and under are pedestrian deaths.
Make sure to tell your kids only to cross the road at designated crosswalks and intersections. Teach your children only to walk on the sidewalk and to face traffic. Encourage your kids to put down the cell phone and keep an open eye on their surroundings to watch out for potential hazards. Consider walking with your child to school for the first week or two to demonstrate how to obey traffic rules and to also show them the safest route to school, pointing out potential hazards on the way.
Riding a bicycle to school is quick and also a fun form of exercise, too. Whenever your child bikes to school, make sure that they are always wearing a helmet. You should also check and make sure that the helmet fits correctly and is approved for bicycle use. Make sure that your child also knows to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic. If they ride in a group, teach them to ride in single file and to not take up space in the road. Children should always come to a complete stop before crossing the street and should walk their bike across the road, not ride.
Driving Kids to School
The roads are always congested right before school starts, so if you’re planning on dropping off your kids it’s essential for you to pay attention and slow down. Make sure you know the drop-off point and procedures for each school your children. Take extra care to obey all traffic laws and take care not to double-park, block crosswalks or pass vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians.
If you plan on driving your children to school, be prepared to share the road with school buses. Remember to stop when the bus extends the “Stop” sign arm, even if you’re going in the opposite direction. Keep your eyes and ears open and look out for distracted children running to board or exit the bus.
Teach your kids to stay safely on the side of the road when waiting for the bus and to stay away from traffic. When the bus approaches, children should line up away from the road and wait until the bus comes to a complete stop to board. Once on the bus, children should have appropriate and polite behavior so the bus driver is not distracted by rough-housing or other disturbances. Remind your child that they should wait until the bus has come to a complete stop before getting up from their seat to exit.
Extra care should be taken when exiting the bus. Make sure that your child knows to stay in the sight of the bus driver and other drivers on the road before crossing the street and to keep an eye out for traffic.
While the start of school can mean that the traffic patterns change drastically in your neighborhood, a little preparation and planning can help make something stressful and hectic more manageable.
Safety Tips for Going to School:
1. Stick together.
Walk with a group of kids whenever possible.
2. Be visible.
Walk on a sidewalk when one is available or walk facing traffic if there is no sidewalk. Wear bright-colored clothing to be more visible to cars.
3. Don’t do it alone.
Children younger than 9-years-old should always cross the street with an adult. Make sure your child understands the safest place to cross is at a crosswalk, street corner, or intersection. Make sure they know to never jaywalk across the street.
4. Choose the safe route.
Choose the safest way to school possible. Try to avoid routes with construction so you don’t have to encounter delays or additional safety hazards.
5. Know where to go.
Identify safe houses along your child’s walking route. Point out homes of family friends where they can stop for help in case of trouble. Make sure these are people who know your child considers their home a safe place to go and that you choose people who are home during the times your child will be walking by.
6. Discuss stranger danger.
Make sure you child knows how to respond to strangers who they might encounter on their route.
7. Go over the numbers they need to know.
If your child carries a phone, make sure they know how to dial for emergency help. Numbers to include on speed dial include the local emergency dispatch, your phone number, relatives and friends numbers, and anyone else who could help your child in an emergency if the need arises.
8. Prepare for all seasons.
Teach your child about special seasonal hazards. When dealing with snow clearing vehicles, make sure your child knows to stand back until the snow plow or vehicle has gone by. Make sure your child understands that it is never safe to cross or play on storm water drains.
9. Be sure they aren’t overwhelmed.
Check your child’s backpack weight for walking. A growing child should not be overburdened by a too heavy backpack.
10. Prepare for changes.
When relocating, parents should think about their child’s walk to school as they make their buying and renting decisions.
With caution and safety in mind, you can get your children to school safely and without any worries.